How Does Downtown Menlo Park Support So Many Rug Stores?

March 2, 2023


Gaby Foster

Stephen Miller Gallery, a high-end rug store, has been in Menlo Park since 1991. The store is mainly frequented by interior designers shopping on behalf of their clients. “What I love about Stephen Miller is that each rug is like a work of art,” Dimitra Anderson, a client of Stephen Miller Gallery, said. Staff photo: Gaby Foster

In recent years, downtown Menlo Park has become home to a plethora of rug stores. A total of six rug stores line both sides of Santa Cruz Avenue – their decorative storefronts have left many students curious as to why so many of these stores exist within such a small vicinity, as well as how they survive financially.

Senior Avery Herrod grew up visiting these rug shops with her mom on outings in Menlo Park, but only became more curious about their legitimacy as she got older. “It was a joke that my friends and I would make in middle school a lot, and then […] we started to think it was actually weird that there were so many rug stores,” Herrod said.

Students aren’t the only ones curious about Menlo’s rug stores; their customers are, too. Interior designers Dimitra Anderson and Carol Boyden, both of whom shop at Stephen Miller Gallery, a high-end rug retailer on Santa Cruz Ave, are equally confused as to how and why there are so many competing rug stores on the same street. 

The answer to why there are so many rug stores is quite simple: Menlo Park’s location. 

Many of Menlo Park’s rug stores originated outside Menlo Park. For instance, The Rug Center moved to Menlo Park three years ago from Mountain View. Many newer stores have chosen to relocate to Menlo Park because of the city’s proximity to Atherton. 

According to Jeremy Dulewski, owner of The Oriental Carpet, the wealth of many Menlo Park and Atherton citizens makes for great business. Many local people own vacation homes and tend to remodel their various residences frequently. “Customers are buying rugs to do their entire house, and then they move and they come back, and they [refurnish] that house or they buy a second house,” Dulewski said.

The majority of Menlo Park’s rug stores only sell hand-knotted rugs that are imported from countries like India, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey and are made from a variety of high-quality materials. These detailed rugs represent millions of knots, formulated by hand over the course of years which are then shipped across the world, explained Stephen Miller, owner of Stephen Miller Gallery. “More human energy goes into a rug than anything else you can buy,” Miller said. Each rug’s uniqueness, importation cost and manufacturing period cause prices to range from $100 to $100,000, according to Aleena Chaudhry of The Rug Center.

Even in Menlo Park, rug retail is a financially challenging enterprise, explained Chaudhry. “It’s a luxury business and these are sort of times of panic, people don’t really want to go looking for things like this, especially because rugs are something that I feel people know less and less about,” Chaudhry said.

The pandemic has also seriously impacted the success of the rug business since stores heavily depend on in-person interaction for their sales. “Since people have been switching more to online shopping and not going to storefronts, it’s made businesses like ours struggle a lot more,” Chaudhry said. 

The pandemic also led to a higher demand for rug cleaning and repair, according to Chaudhry. Though it may appear that the main commodity of these shops is selling rugs, many of these stores also offer other various services that are often more profitable than rug sales. All six of Menlo Park’s rug stores offer rug cleaning and repair services, according to their websites. 

While rug cleaning and repair are not nearly as expensive as actual rug sales, Chaundhry explained that these services are still the main factor that keeps their business alive, especially post-pandemic.

Some rug store owners are aware of the community’s curiosity about their stores and prices. “I’ve constantly heard people like walking by saying ‘why the heck are there all these rug stores around here?’” Chaudhry said. However, Chaudhry believes that Menlo Park actually has too few rug stores. 

“A lot of these [rugs] are more museum pieces,” Chaudhry said. “You can’t find a rug like this again, right? They can make replicas, but it won’t be the same material, same dyes, same sort of feel that they had.”

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